A Guide to Accra
Ghana’s coastal capital is fast becoming the coolest on the continent for its strong sense of style, bustling beach and cultural currency.
Owing to a fast-growing economy and rising middle class, Accra is seeing the arrival of yoga studios, concept fashion stores, international restaurants, iced-tea cocktails and gluten-free biscuits. It’s hot and humid all year round and moving around the city can be slow, much like the pace of life in Accra – so it’s best to just accept the rhythm and adapt. Refresh yourself often with the juice of fresh coconuts – there are wheelbarrows full of them on every street corner.
Ghana’s capital is a chaotic mix of old and new: boutique hotels and shantytowns, Chinese imports and local design. Street stalls with bright kente dresses, shirts and backpacks line the streets in the trendy area of Osu, and refreshments are easier to find in large tubs carried around on vendors’ heads than they are in formal stores. It’s thanks in part to the annual Chale Wote Street Art festival that the contemporary art and design scene is flourishing.
In the widely spoken Akan language, dumsor is the term used to describe the regular power outages – a blend of two words that roughly translates to ‘off and on’. The hum of generators is part of the city’s soundscape and the effect of dumsor in Accra is palpable: if you can’t rely on the power, be the power. The city has its own brand of dynamic energy.
Untamed Empire is a high-end concept store that occupies a double-storey converted shipping container in North Ridge. It stocks ready-to-wear garments and luxury loungewear from designers across the continent and the upper storey hosts art and photography exhibitions, book signings and in-store visits from designers.
For locally made menswear, womenswear, trendy accessories and beauty products, pop into Elle Lokko in Osu. Here you’ll find hand-dyed boutique garments by Osei Duro, beautiful woven accessories from AAKS and floaty fabrics from I Am Isigo.
The Shop Accra by Eyetsa, also in Osu, sells a curated selection of locally designed products, including interior decor, lighting, home accessories and gifts.
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Vending local craft and artisanal products from Ghana and West Africa is semi-outdoor market The Accra Arts Centre. Look beyond the trinkets, masks and tourist tat to find the beautiful local textiles and woven baskets. Be prepared to haggle though – tourist prices are widely inflated.
Find it at John Evans Atta Mills High St, Accra.
For an authentic market experience, Makola Market has everything from local spices, vegetables and West African snails to second-hand clothes, imported Chinese products and car parts.
Find it at Kojo Thompson Road, Accra.
Eat & Drink
The Neem Grill is a gorgeous garden restaurant with beautifully designed wooden furniture and lanterns hanging from the trees. They recently built a brick pizza oven and also serve great grilled seafood.
Find it at Mama Adjele Road, East Airport, Accra
Sip an alcoholic or non-alcoholic iced tea at Tea Baa. This establishment was started by local creative force Dedo Azu and offers a simple, delicious food menu and a good collection of board games for visitors to play.
Find it at 10 Klannaa Street, Accra.
Have a local Star beer or cocktail at The Republic Bar & Grill near bustling Oxford Street, or try the cloudy palm wine. Frequented by locals and tourists, the spot has a weekly roster of live music and regular karaoke nights.
Find it at 3rd Lane, Kuku Hill, Accra.
Coco Lounge and Firefly Lounge Bar are also hot spots for cold drinks.
Find it at Cnr Independence and North Liberation Link; 11th Lane, Accra.
Just off Oxford Street, at the bottom of a conspicuous block of flats called Chateau Towers, you’ll find Aunty Wang’s Kitchen. It’s a family-run business with a limited menu, but serves the freshest dumplings and clear noodle broths.
Try the humble Chez Clarisse Mama Africa in Osu for delicious local food, and for somewhere a little more upmarket with the best flavours of West Africa, try Ivorian restaurant Buka.
Local cuisine includes hearty red red, a West African black-eyed bean stew; banku, balls of fermented corn and cassava; salted plantain, served with almost every meal, and tilapia, the most popular local fish.
Check out the programme of events at The Studio Accra, a cultural movement (run by talented local photographer Francis Kokoroko and stylist Daniel Quist) that showcases music, spoken word, film screenings, exhibitions and pop-ups. The founders are also the curators of Instagram account and digital store Finders Keepers Outfits, an array of discoveries from Accra’s thrift markets.
ACCRA [dot] ALT radio is based in Brazil House in James Town, the city’s oldest district, inhabited mostly by a fishing community. The married couple behind this regular radio programme and culture blog are also the founders of the Chale Wote Street Art festival, which sees the whole neighbourhood overflowing with mime, dance, theatre, visual art and site-specific installations every August.
Gallery 1957 opened in early 2016 and presents the best of Ghana’s contemporary artists, including Serge Attukwei Clottey, Jeremiah Quarshie and Zohra Opoku, all housed in the smart Kempinski Hotel.
Must-see sites around the city include Black Star Square – also known as Independence Square – which houses monuments to Ghana’s struggle for independence: the Independence Arch and the Black Star Gate. Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park in downtown Accra pay tribute to the late Ghanaian leader of the same name, the country’s first president after colonial rule.
West Africa has one of the most exciting hip-hop cultures in the world and Accra has its fair share of musicians, such as M.anifest and Blitz the Ambassador, leading the way.
Young collective Yoyo Tinz (a name inspired by the ‘yo, yo, yo’s in some US rap lyrics) put on regular shows in Accra and represent what some of Ghana’s upcoming hip-hop and graffiti artists are creating.
Look out for DJ Steloo, a local who is pioneering a new African house music movement and is recognisable by his unique sense of style. Regularly spotted in shorts, hockey shin pads and a pilot-style hat made of local fabric, Steloo often performs impromptu sets in the streets of Accra.
Musical duo FOKN Bois have earned themselves a notable following of young Ghanaians for freely speaking their minds. In their bold and humorous lyrics, they attack contradictions in Ghanaian culture, covering sex, politics and religion. They also perform individually as Wanlov and M3NSA – think rap, with a heavy hint of Afro-Gypsy.
On Accra’s busiest stretch of coast, Labadi Pleasure Beach is about as close as you can get to Havana in Africa. With snake handlers, acrobats and horse rides on the sand, the experience is one of sensory overload.
Canvas-roofed stalls and bars border the beach, selling cool drinks and local food, and lifeguards watch over swimmers enjoying Accra’s Atlantic water. On Wednesdays, there are reggae nights and at weekends, live local music and drumming circles.